A 2020 View of the Contact Center

Each New Year starts with a thrill: the anticipation of new projects, goals to be met and changes to be achieved.

Here at Inisoft, over the year ahead we’ll be working on a number of enhancements to Syntelate XA, our omnichannel, unified agent desktop for contact centers.  Making an exciting start to our 2020, we’ve added a new feature to Syntelate XA that we’ll unveil in February, at the Avaya Engage event in Phoenix, Arizona.

And, with new product features in mind as 2020 gets underway, this article takes a look at what new developments in the industry look set to shake us during the next decade.

Keeping up with the customers

Contact center software solutions need to keep up with the pace of change in social communications technology. Increasing numbers of customers point out how poorly companies are doing at seamlessly switching channels during an interaction – 73% complained about this, up from 67% in 2018 (Frost & Sullivan, 2019). Likewise, respondents said customer services aren’t doing enough to offer the most popular social media messaging options, with 90% of consumers being more likely to do business with a company that offers more ways to communicate. That’s up from 87% in 2018 (Frost & Sullivan, 2019), indicating that social media communications technologies have become so deeply embedded in our everyday lives now that people notice when their preferred channels are not offered by a business’s customer services.

Hanging on the telephone

And what are the preferred channels? Well, agent-assisted phone interactions are still the dominant mode for customer service because they give the most satisfactory results to consumers. “Phone, email and online chat receive the highest scores for satisfaction, preference, and Net Promoter Score®” (NICE inContact, 2019). And this is not likely to change for some time since use of each of these channels has not changed globally since 2018. So, phone will continue to dominate in 2020, and it could well remain the first channel of choice for a long time, although we are likely to see its percentage lower a little as social media and chat channel offerings improve.

Self-service demands

Despite the continuing importance of phone calling, social media messaging for self-service gains in popularity among customers year on year. Two in three Generation Z and Millennials expect companies to allow them to use private social messaging apps and think those apps make it easier and faster to get issues resolved. If more companies allowed them to interact using private social messaging apps, they would reach less for the phone (NICE inContact, 2019).

Chatbot usage for self-service has also increased, although older generations are less likely to prefer AI self-service channels. Customers want to be informed if they are speaking to a chatbot (92%), which reveals the importance of trust when it comes to AI. “Overall, consumers are cautious toward chatbots. Most say they want to be informed if interacting with a chatbot, they prefer a live agent, and chatbots need to get smarter before they use them regularly” (NICE inContact, 2019).

Overall, self-service using mobile apps has increased to 32% since 2018 across all three regions surveyed by NICE inContact. “Mobile apps stand out as the most commonly used self-service method. Usage of mobile apps has increased significantly across all three regions” (NICE inContact, 2019). Facebook Messenger is the most popular app.

Trust in AI

We know that artificial intelligence is good for creating better omnichannel solutions. But it’s developed into a compellingly sophisticated tool that does so much more than handle programmed tasks: automation is going to get bigger and better during the next decade. “The industry has matured past using AI as point solutions, such as virtual assistants and bots, to infusing AI across the customer contact landscape in a variety of ways and methods” (Frost & Sullivan, 2019). Artificial Intelligence is overhauling internal processes, reshaping the front and back office as part of digital transformation strategies across many businesses.

For example, Machine Learning (ML) is increasingly used for workload scheduling. “By 2025, 40% of large enterprises with hourly paid workers and variable demand for labor will use automation to drive workforce scheduling decisions” (Gartner, Aug 21, 2019). The rise of AI and ML will drive a corresponding rise in the “six key elements of trust: Ethics, integrity, openness, accountability, competence and consistency” (Gartner, Oct 21, 2019). Establishing trust comes by practising the key elements of trust consistently, so that they become the culture of the business.

One facet of the new customer services culture is personalization, which will be a major area for AI development. What does this entail when it comes to the customer? Simply put, it means getting their culture and personality right. For example, using AI to match callers with agents and route interactions through the customer’s preferred channel, ensuring the conversation contains the appropriate etiquette and logic to enable the most effective and efficient customer service.

But it’s also important to recognize that culture and personalization aren’t just about the customer, they’re also about the agent. At one time criticized for enabling dehumanizing work practices, the contact center industry has begun improving its working conditions. One of the ways this is happening is through the rise of mobile working, which is forecast to grow rapidly in the next few years. In a study quoted by IBM, “82 percent of remote workers experience lower stress levels when working remotely. This well-being can translate into higher levels of productivity, less sick days and greater company loyalty. In fact, 95 percent of employers say the ability for an employee to work remotely has a high impact on employee retention.” Driven by increasing mobile working, workforce engagement (WEM) and employee experience (EX) are going to be among the biggest cultural disruptors in the contact center industry in the next decade.

New clouds on the horizon

“Frost & Sullivan forecast continued rapid cloud adoption with growth of 11.4% CAGR during the 2017–2022 study period. In particular, the area of APO, which includes WEM capabilities and analytics, is forecast to grow 18.9%, and core routing platforms, 16.8%” (Frost & Sullivan, 2019).

As more companies seek out cloud solutions, natively cloud-built unified desktop solutions will become prevalent. Cameron Weeks, founder and CEO of Edify believes that native solutions work better than different pieces of technology that are put together, saying “acquired never works as well as native” (Cameron Weeks, Edify, 2019). But can a natively created solution offer enough flexibility for those customers who need something that can integrate their existing architecture? “The rip-and-replace mentality of the early cloud years has become a more measured approach for numerous reasons” (Frost & Sullivan, 2019). As far as 2020 is concerned, hybrid cloud solutions continue to be an attractive option because they guarantee robust protection of existing on-premises systems while granting businesses a degree of innovation and flexibility by providing specific services in the cloud.

Gartner predicts that more businesses will implement distributed cloud systems. “Distributed cloud allows data centers to be located anywhere. This solves both technical issues like latency and also regulatory challenges like data sovereignty. It also offers the benefits of a public cloud service alongside the benefits of a private, local cloud” (Gartner, Oct 21, 2019).

Conclusion

These are the principal themes of the industry now and are the areas of growth and innovation driving change across the industry, and even change beyond the contact center as well. From the vantage point of 2020, it’s clear to see now more than ever before that the sector has entered an exciting stage of development that technologies of this decade will help shape for the better.

Get in touch to discuss how Syntelate XA can help your contact center provide seamless omnichannel customer service.

Simone Hutchinson

Technical Author, Inisoft

Follow @InisoftLtd on Twitter

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